Monday, November 30, 2009

Carrie's worried about DOND, too

Carrie Grosvenor has chimed in with worries about syndie Deal or No Deal's future. I fretted about the show in a recent blog entry myself. Over at BuzzerBlog Alex Davis, who never liked DOND, is almost exulting that the syndie won't survive its second season. There are rumors of a production halt and a search for a cheaper taping site.

Is there fire behind all this smoke? The show is hanging in above the 1.0 syndie Medoza line. It's not really that expensive, with free suitcase-openers and usually modest prize winnings. Howie makes some money, I guess, but otherwise production costs look rock-bottom.

If the numbers continue to deteriorate, of course, even the cheapest version of DOND would be vulnerable. The show might also get trapped in the syndication death spiral of bad numbers producing worse timeslots and stations, followed inevitably by even worse numbers. The show's had a good long run with many hundreds of eps in its network and syndie versions, and it may just be getting tired. I like the show, but I'm an actuary and normal people ain't as crazy as moi about expected values and probability distributions and utility theory and all the other mathematical goodies hidden beneath the show's deceptively simple surface.

GSN certainly wouldn't mind the syndie's death. That would eliminate practically all competition for its own endless runs of Howie. The network could then scoop up the syndie eps cheap and splatter even more DOND over the schedule. The show has been a major winner for the network.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

I've Got a Secret will never die

Already posted about this on the GSN board, but the Play Every Day network is bringing back classic I've Got a Secret for a two-week run starting December 7. Okay, it's at 3:30 AM but I'll take what I can get. Instead of self-plagiarizing my GSN board post, I'll just quote directly:

Classic IGAS is one of my all-time faves. Too bad it only gets a two-week run, but it hasn't been seen at all for quite a while. And it really doesn't have a whole lot of clips on YouTube compared to, say, What's My Line. So it's nice that the show gets a little exposure, anyway. The BuzzerBlog pdf schedules say there will be nine Garry Moore shows (including the very early 7/17/52 ep with, of all people, Earl Warren and Buster Keaton together at last) and one Steve Allen show.

Interestingly, the pdf schedule says the 7/17/52 episode featured Bill Cullen. The episode guide disagrees and says that Bill didn't debut until the 7/31/52 ep. We'll see. At any rate the 7/17/52 ep is an extremely early show, possibly the earliest that GSN has. The episode guide lists it as the second ep in the entire run.

As a segway to the return of Password, the last IGAS ep in the two-week run will be the 11/6/61 show with Vivian Vance, which demonstrated the then brand-new Password to the audience. An absolutely classic ep by any definition, with one long-running format demoing another long-running format.

UPDATE: If you want an idea of what I've Got a Secret looked like way back in 1952, try this YouTube clip. An absurdly young-looking Bill Cullen chips in some hilarious questioning.

Wheel now and then

Once in a while Brandon puts up a game show post on his blog. He's a predictable fan of older shows, and his latest post extolling the ancient Wheel of Fortune with Chuck Woolery is no exception. Brandon opines:

"One big reason I love the older episodes...simplicity. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it’s the reason why I don’t enjoy the current episodes as much. I don’t mind the idea of new twists, but the show these days can focus on those more than the game itself. It’s why the older episodes are always fun for me to watch. The older episodes are fluff free."

To my taste the older episodes are pace free. They seem to loolligag forever through painfully few rounds. The current version is much more up-tempo and the toss-ups help get the show through significantly more puzzles. And, after all, the puzzles are the reason for the show's existence. Well, that and Vanna.

As for the dreaded "new twists", one of them paid off huge with a million-dollar win for a very appealing contestant. Sure, a million here and a million there in today's game show world is no longer a titanic event. But Michelle Loewenstein had to pick her way through a tortuous series of fortuitous happenings to earn her money. Even the most curmudgeonly classics devotee might find her episode memorable.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Good syndie news

Except for Howie all the syndie gamers hit season highs in the latest published week ending November 15. Broadcasting & Cable finally got around to printing the numbers:

Wheel of Fortune 7.5 - season high and led all syndies in households
Jeopardy 6.3 - whoduh thunk, same as WoF, season high
Millionaire 2.6 - not a huge boost from the tournament of ten but still a season high
5th Grader 1.7 - flat with previous week's season high
Family Feud 1.3 - up a tick to season high
Deal or No Deal 1.1 - poor Howie, down a tick

Starting to get a little concerned about Howie. He hasn't fallen off the map but he's getting close to the border. They may have to cheapen the show even more to get another season. Everything else looks safe.

Speaking of Howie, his new book is out and I even watched the video for it on amazon.com. Howie looks a little uncomfortable in the video, as if flogging a book is somehow undignified. He swears he's going to do a book tour, though.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Regis now!

Syndie Millionaire has moved Regis week up to...next week, starting November 30. Mr. Philbin's week was originally scheduled for the spring, but Carrie Grosvenor suggests that Millionaire wants to strike while the Tournament of Ten iron is hot. Who knows? Anyway, it'll be nice to see Regis staring across at the contestants for a change. Nothing against Meredith, who's kept the syndie going for a long, long time. But a little variety never hurts, and Regis will always be identified with the show.

By the way, I haven't seen any Nielsen numbers from the first week of the Tournament of Ten on Broadcasting & Cable or TV by the Numbers. Maybe Nielsen is "reprocessing" or something. I'll post the ratings whenever they arrive. And Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The long and winding Feud

Long before he got convicted of genuine murder, Phil Spector figuratively murdered a harmless Paul McCartney ballad called The Long and Winding Road. Spector piled his wall of sound - celestial choirs, harps, strings, gunk and dandruff - on top of what should have been a simple piano song. Decades later McCartney stripped out all the nonsense and released the song "naked."

Luckily, Spector never got his dirty hands on Family Feud, or we may have heard celestial choirs over the fast money round. Instead, Family Feud's format has remained remarkably unchanged over more than three decades, ever since Goodson-Todman spun off the bonus round of Match Game into a vehicle for Richard Dawson. Oh sure, there have been occasional tweaks and rules changes, but the basic idea has always endured: ask a couple families to match what a hundred people answered to more or less silly questions.

Feud has lasted through five hosts, not counting brief stints by Al Roker and Rikki Lake. The show has developed an odd reputation as cursed for its hosts, because of Ray Combs' sad fate and the undoubted fact that none of the hosts have gone onto bigger and better things after Feud. Whatever happened to Richard Dawson, anyway?

The incomparable Richard will always be the host most closely associated with Feud, even though he rapidly succumbed on the show to his penchant for boredom. After a few years at the top of his form, Dawson subsided into mumbling and indifference on Feud. That's why Wheel of Fortune had little trouble knocking it off as the top game show in the 1980s. A few years' hiatus followed, then Ray Combs took over and really did a good job. But we know how that story ended, with Combs' firing and eventual suicide and a very brief and very forgettable return by Dawson.

Another few years' hiatus followed, then the current syndie run began. Somehow the incompetent Louie Anderson managed not to sink the show in its first three seasons, before Richard Karn started reading the questions and fetched the syndie its best numbers ever. For whatever reason the producers fired Karn after four seasons and installed current incumbent John O'Hurley. The Dancing with the Stars winner was much too mannered and fussy at first, but he has since toned down his act and kept Feud going through admittedly lower and lower ratings.

But what syndie doesn't suffer from lower and lower ratings nowadays? Even Oprah has seen her numbers tumble along with the rest of over-the-air teevee. Feud has lasted for decades now, and who's to say it can't keep grinding for the foreseeable future?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Re: Joyce

Apologies for the coy title. But I just wanted to post a note about Joyce Bulifant, one of the game show genre's lesser lights but still worth remembering. Actually, I shouldn't sound so memorial-ish. Joyce is still with us, unlike too many of her confreres from the classic era of Match Game. She even turned up on GSN Live in 2008, when the interstitials were still featuring people who had appeared on classic game shows. (Yes, Heidi Bohay is still on the show and she did a few oldtime gamers.)

Joyce's Wikipedia article kicks off with this rather sour note: "She was a frequent panelist on the television game show Match Game, more often than not giving bizarre answers that seldom matched the contestants." Well, that's not strictly true. I just watched today's Match Game PM on GSN, where Joyce matched "Holiday Inn" and won a contestant twelve grand, or thirty thousand in today's currency. But she did come up with ditzy answers often enough that the producers usually stuck her in the goofball sixth seat, along with other spaceys like Patti Deutsch.

Joyce can boast of a respectable IMDb page, with plenty of credits on various sitcoms and even a few serious dramas. Her little-girl voice made her "naturally funny," as even dour Wikipedia concedes. She was also a competent game player, despite her ditz attacks on Match Game. She certainly played well enough on straight gamers like Pyramid and Password. And, after all, ditziness was the whole point of Match Game, which nobody watched for the "silly" - Gene Rayburn's own description - gameplay.

She was never a star or even that important. But Joyce livened the procedings on many game shows and certainly appealed to audiences with her upbeat if somewhat airheaded persona. She was hard not to like, and that made her a natural for the games.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

1 vs. 100

Some game shows just never get a decent chance. 1 vs. 100 falls into this cursed category. NBC gave it a few piddling episodes on Friday night, and the show fetched more than respectable numbers for that godforsaken evening of broadcast television. But the network yanked the show around, sending it on hiatus and then bringing it back and never giving it a consistent opportunity to establish itself. NBC finally scrapped 1 vs. 100 completely after just 28 episodes.

Luckily, GSN picked up the show as a throw-in on the Deal or No Deal lease. So Bob Saget and company have gotten a second and well-deserved life on weekends at the Play Every Day network. Although some maintain that the second season worsened because of supposedly easier questions, I really don't see any difference in quality. The questions stump me about as often in either of the show's all-too-short seasons.

Saget was surprisingly good, dropping in a quip or three but not intruding on the gameplay too much. The show's pace could dawdle a bit but the producers generally moved things along more briskly as the episodes progressed. And the basic idea was great: one lone contestant versus a baying mob.

The mob got a little cutesy-pie sometimes, with hippies and drag queens and such. But genuine players like Ken Jennings and Annie Duke showed up to keep things interesting. No doubt, the show should have enjoyed a much longer run on Friday night. The broadcast networks still burn money on scripted flops like Dollhouse on Friday when much cheaper alternatives would make far more sense.

Back with sad news

Sorry for the hiatus but I've been a busy boy lately. The biggest game show news while I was gone was an untimely death. Again, I don't want this blog to become an obit page, but I have to take time to remember Ken Ober. He hosted the offbeat but always entertaining Remote Control, which graced MTV during the 1980s.

The show was really just a routine quizzer but tricked up with great gimmicks. Contestants disappeared in alarming ways, got strapped to wheels, and generally were treated like Alfred Hitchcock wanted to treat actors. It was great fun for the viewers if a little nerve-wracking for the players.

MTV has since gone on to other game shows, all of them so much worse than Remote Control that it's embarrassing. Ober presided over the odd doings with thorough aplomb, as if it were the most natural thing in the world for a losing contestant to vanish through a wall. He died of a heart attack at the obscenely young age of 52. R.I.P.

Not to dwell on death too much, I was happy that Sam Murray, everyman bartender, took home the big money on Millionaire. We'll see if the stunt helped Meredith's ratings. But regardless of the Nielsen news, Sam's the kind of contestant it's easy to root for.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Hold my breath until I turn blue

A typical reaction of a "classics fan" to GSN going all post-1990 on weekends: "Right now there’s 3, if not 4 shows that I can sit down and enjoy on a daily basis."

Which demonstrates that many so-called "classics fans" don't much like game shows. Even after the dreaded horrible cataclysmic and just awful schedule change, GSN will present twenty traditional game shows during the week: Match Game, Combs Feud, 25K Pyramid, Wheel of Fortune, Dawson Feud, Bergeron Squares, Jeopardy, 100K Pyramid, Chain Reaction, Lingo, Karn Feud, Deal or No Deal, Newlywed Game, Catch 21, O'Hurley Feud, Meredith Millionaire, Regis Millionaire, Password, Whammy, and 1 vs. 100.

If you can only find three or four of these shows that you enjoy, you are not a game show fan. What you are is a fan of complaining about GSN not programming enough ancient shows.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Potpourri

GSN is eliminating pre-1990 shows from weekends. It was inevitable. As the numbers published on Mediaweek indicated, newer shows earlier in the day get bigger audiences. And even though all game shows skew old, the pre-1990 epics skew older than Everest.

Predictable wailings and lamentations have broken out on the GSN Classics board, with network veep Kelly Goode getting pummeled as the fall girl. That's ridiculous, of course, even by the less than stratospheric standards of the GSN Classics board. Nielsen Media Research bears the genuine responsibility.

The celebrity questions on syndie Millionaire have hardly been the disaster that about.com's Carrie Grosvenor feared, as Carrie has now admitted. The spots blend into the show unobtrusively and don't slow the pace or spoil the suspense. Nice to see Regis on one of the questions, which appropriately asked about his ties on the original ABC version of Millionaire.

More smarty-pants kids are coming in Fox's Our Little Genius next year. Some of the kiddie braniacs will get super-plum spots after American Idol. The producers of 5th Grader hope to duplicate their past success, but we'll see how much the underage hyper-intelligent set continues to appeal to Fox viewers. These are the folks who like The Simpsons.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Bye GSN Radio

The ax has officially swung and GSN Radio expires on - not a bad joke - Friday the 13th.

I never listened to the show, and I apparently had plenty of company. Internet radio has never taken off, and GSN arrived much too early at the party. Alex Davis makes bitter noises over the axing and grumps about the Muppet show GSN supposedly has in development. Sorry, Alex, but the Muppets are a safer bet than any Internet radio game show.

Carrie Grosvenor proves characteristically milder, though even she wishes for earlier official confirmation. Carrie, the disgruntled insider posted the news October 27 on AJ Benza's blog. As weeks went by with no denial, everybody knew the end was approaching, even if GSN wouldn't announce the official quietus.

By the way, the D.I. hasn't posted anything else on Benza's blog for quite a while. I don't know if he's been squelched or if he just doesn't have any new info. The whole GSN Radio experiment shows that you can easily be too far in front of the curve. Internet radio must show genuine signs of catching on before a gambit like this has a real chance for success.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A million here, a million there

Sam Murray, current bartender and aspiring nurse, picked the right number on Millionaire yesterday. So he copped that famous amount of money the show keeps advertising but so rarely gives away. Funny thing, I happened to know the answer to the previous day's question about stuffing a chicken with snow. Yes, it proved fatal for poor Sir Francis Bacon.

Of course, Sam now has to hope that none of the other "tournament of ten" hopefuls edges him out of his prize by knowing some other insanely useless bit of information. I've actually enjoyed the tournament so far. Sure, it's just a sweeps stunt, but at least it's a good one. I hope Millionaire gets an uptick or two out of it.

UPDATE: Another real oddity. I happened to know the answer to today's one-mill question, too. It was Edward Everett who sedated the crowd with a two-hour harangue before Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. The clueless girl in the hot seat thought it was Daniel Webster. Only one problem with that idea: Webster had been dead for more than a decade before the Gettysburg Address. Luckily the girl wasn't sure and walked away, keeping her previous winnings intact and leaving Sam Murray safe with his million for one more show.

UPDATED UPDATE: Sam survives one more test. Friday's million-dollar contestant, a retired New York busdriver named Ralph (sadly, his last name wasn't Kramden) passed on another question I knew. The Last Supper was treated poorly over several centuries, and it was the painting cut into to expand a doorway.

Morning wah-wah

The GSN Classics board is always good for laughs. One of the latest posts:

"2009 has been awful on GSN, the third worst year, 2000, 2004, 2009, GSN just doesn't care what we all want, it's a terrible shame."

Which got this response:

"Add 1997 to that list as well."

Every year is the worst yet. I do get some evil laughs from the constant sobbing for more obscure oldies on GSN. How dare the network show something from after 1990!

My definition of a "classics fan": somebody who gets more fun out of hating newer game shows than from watching any game shows.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Donnymid

In 2002 a new syndie version of the venerable Pyramid franchise appeared, with Donny Osmond as host. For whatever reason this version has attracted a lot of venom from classic game show fans, though it was far from a critical or commercial failure. In fact, I think the show offered at least one significant improvement on the old Dick Clark versions: a faster time limit. Donnymid cut the limit down to twenty seconds for six clues, which helped eliminate the numbingly routine perfect rounds that often plagued previous versions.

The one very questionable element of the new show was the sneak peek at the Winner's Circle categories given to the celebs. The peek was disclosed, barely, so it didn't brush against the anti-rigging law. But it still smelled of prearrangement. In the second season the show wisely got rid of it.

The show did ratings that would virtually guarantee its renewal nowadays. Even in 2004, when the show was cancelled, many wondered why show-owner Sony would pull it. Turns out Sony wanted to push a syndie talk show instead, which got no audience and was quickly axed.

Donny Osmond proved witty and competent as the host, and even copped a daytime Emmy nomination. The celeb contestants were generally more than capable - many had played on previous Pyramid versions - and the standard of play was usually quite high. Exactly why the version attracts so much emnity from classics fans is hard to fathom. Some complain about the show's judging, but Pyramid has always been devilishly hard to judge and disputes about split-second calls date back to its earliest days.

The classics freaks probably figure that no Pyramid without Clark is worthy of the name. And Donnymid debuted long after 1990, which makes it automatically suspect.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Syndie sprinklings

Not much to report on the latest week - ending November 1 thanks to Nielsen's leisurely turnaround - for syndie game shows. All were flat or down a tick or three, with two small exceptions. Paige Albiniak must have the day off, so David Tanklefsky reports from Broadcasting & Cable:

Wheel of Fortune 6.8 - off three ticks but still leads all syndies in household rating
Jeopardy 5.8 - didn't follow WoF for once but stayed flat
Millionaire 2.5 - a noble exception, up a tick
5th Grader 1.6 - the other noble exception, up a tick
Deal or No Deal 1.2 - flat
Family Feud 1.2 - flat

Well into the new syndie season, the top three pecking order is unchanged, of course. The WoF-Jeopardy-Millionaire troika has reigned for just short of forever. The new kid looks okay, and the bottom feeders have declined but not to the red zone quite yet.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Stealing away?

If you watch GSN at all, you haven't been able to dodge the tsunami of Newlywed Game and Catch 21 promos...unless you're mighty quick on the remote. Most of the spots are purely obnoxious, and I mean 99.44% purely. But there have been a few cute Newlywed Game spots with prim and proper business people in prim and proper business situations suddenly asking a mildly risque question that could appear on the show.

Now an ad-business blogger yells plagiarism on those spots, which have actually gotten a few kudos from the industry. He shovels out evidence that GSN swiped at least the tagline from promos for a long-ago Fox Sports Net game show called Sports Geniuses. I vaguely remember the show offered Lisa Guerrero as eye candy, and my filthy-minded self doesn't remember much of anything else. The quizzer expired faster than some May flies.

To be nastily honest, there's a small taste of truth in the accusation. The blogger also gets upset that GSN louses up the logic of the promos, but who in Hades cares about logic in promos? In an odd-karma coincidence I just finished Big Rock Candy Mountain by Wallace Stegner, who suffered his own pretty serious brushes with the plagiarism patrol. So this theft call on GSN caught my eye in the Google blog cache.

Is anybody stealing anything? Watch the videos and decide. By the way, I swiped this entry's photo from the ad guy's blog. I steal all my photos. Or do I only employ the fair use exemption? I'll check with my lawyer.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Queen (or king) for a day

There's some excruciatingly mild Internet buzz about a new show on E! Network called Bank of Hollywood. Technically a remake of a British effort named Fortune: Million Pound Giveaway, the basic idea sounds creepily like the maudlin Queen for a Day from the fifties and sixties. Contestants make pitches to alleged "celebrities" for cash based on need or, well, anything else they can think of. Ryan Seacrest is producing the show but will not host. It's received an eight-episode pickup.

Queen for a Day always struck me as pretty sick, with contestants pimping hard luck stories for prizes. We'll see how gooey this show gets. I'm not optimistic.

Reaction to the chain

I'm an unabashed fan of GSN's version of Chain Reaction, a remake of a short-lived game from the 1980s. The network taped two 65-episode seasons of the show in 2006 and 2007. Rich Cronin then left GSN and his successor David Goldhill hasn't renewed Chain Reaction. Of course, Goldhill hasn't renewed any traditional game show he inherited from the previous regime. Goldhill is no dummy, though, so he continues to rerun the still popular show. Nobody can possibly remember all the similar word clues on the game, so Chain Reaction resists even GSN's horrendous levels of rerun abuse.

My one problem with the show is the clumsy endgame inherited from the original. Too often the endgame collapses into poor clues and giggles. But the front game often provides interesting competition and great play-along value. And I'm a sucker for word games, anyway.

For whatever reason GSN's Chain Reaction has attracted a lot of venom from classic game show fans on the Internet. A typical denunication: "And that version of that show [GSN's version of Chain Reaction] is notorious for having dumb contestants, a dumb host, dumb rule changes, and sadly, these are the main reasons why it's done great on GSN."

Dylan Lane may not be the best host, but he's not some drooling idiot, either. He gets off a good quip or three, and he hardly ruins the competition. Does he make mistakes now and then? Yeah, sure, and so does Chuck Woolery and every other game show icon who ever iconed.

As for dumb contestants, I'd like to see the critics perform under the lights in this demanding word game. Dumb rule changes? I dunno, GSN's version generally improved on the original, and its second season improved on the first. The endgame remains a sore point, but it's a legacy from the 1980s version the critics profess to love.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

This and that

It's official: Kara Scott will be the sideline reporter on GSN's High Stakes Poker with Gabe Kaplan doing the booth commentary alone. This is one dumb change, as almost all observers agree. A partial list of players has also surfaced: Patrik Antonius, David Benyamine, Doyle Brunson, Tom Dwan, Eli Elezra, Antonio Esfandiari, Sammy George, Barry Greenstein, Phil Hellmuth, Andreas Hoivold, Phil Ivey, Mike Matusow, Allan Meltzer, Daniel Negreanu, Dennis Phillips, Lex Veldhuis, Yevgeniy Timoshenko.

It's an interesting mix of HSP veterans and some newcomers. Tom Dwan will get a lot of attention after he drove the action during the fifth season. A humorous note is Carrie Grosvenor's comment at about.com: "There's also a good overview of what's happened over at BuzzerBlog."

Yeah, right. BuzzerBlog was a gazillion light-years behind the curve on this one. The firing of Benza had become a major Internet stink long before BuzzerBlog breathed a single word about the mess. The site is the last place anybody should look for news about High Stakes Poker.

Moving to Millionaire, I'm mildly interested in Regis Philbin's upcoming substitute host stint on the syndie version. I don't know if the show will get a big boost from the appearance, but it could attract a little more attention than just another week of Meredith.

Hopping to Family Feud, the return of the bullseye round was controversial, but I like the rapid-fire questions at the start of the show. Meanwhile, a family finally won the car by copping five straight wins. The big prize made the fast money round seem a little anticlimatic, though.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Syndie talk from BuzzerBlog

There's an interesting follow-up to my post on syndie ratings. Alex Davis at BuzzerBlog also took note of the numbers but spun them a bit differently than I did. You can get the idea from his title: "Ratings Report: Down for All But Family Feud."

Technically, that's true. All the syndie game shows were off by an entire one-tenth of one rating point, except Feud which was flat compared to the previous week. But Alex uses this basically neutral statistical nugget to launch into a long lecture on how Feud is doing great at 1.2 while Deal or No Deal is doing awful at, you guessed it, 1.2.

You might say that Alex is a John O'Hurley fan. In fact, he may be the dapper host's biggest fan except for Mr. O'Hurley himself. I don't mind O'Hurley, though I think he started out too mannered and artificial on Feud. But he's toned down the mugging and mannerisms and now runs the show well. Still, there's no denying the long, steady decline in Feud's numbers since O'Hurley took over from Richard Karn, a host Alex Davis dislikes.

A lot of that decline is just natural aging of the franchise and the general erosion of all over-the-air teevee ratings. But who cares about the series-low and genre-low numbers the show is racking up this year? Alex assures us that "the show's changes seem to have clicked" and "it's like a well-oiled machine in that studio" and Feud's crew is "unbelievably great at what they do" and he "can’t imagine that we wouldn’t be seeing a 12th season of the show." Gee, imagine what he would be saying if Feud's numbers were going up.

Meanwhile, Alex is all doom and gloom about Deal or No Deal, despite the show getting ratings pretty much the same as Feud. "No real excitement, nothing," is how he evaluates the show. He more or less forecasts that the show will be gone after this season.

Which only proves one thing: Alex likes Feud and he doesn't like DOND. Frankly, I think that any syndie which can stay on the right side of the big one-oh has got a chance at renewal in today's market, especially cheap productions like game shows. I like Feud and DOND and I hope they both win through. They are getting close to the death line, though, so my hope is tinged with a little caution.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Syndie blahs

Not much to blog home about in the latest week for syndie game shows. Everything was flat or down a tick in the week ending October 25. Paige Albiniak, intrepid syndication reporter for Broadcasting & Cable, blames competition from baseball and a general falloff in teevee watching. The so-so numbers:

Wheel of Fortune 7.1 - off a tick compared to the previous week
Jeopardy 5.8 - hard to believe, but the same as WoF
Millionaire 2.4 - also off one slim tenth of one slim point
5th Grader 1.5 - off a tick, seeing a pattern?
Deal or No Deal 1.2 - off a tick, you must see it by now
Family Feud 1.2 - flat, fooled ya!

None of the numbers looks immediately life-threatening. Not a great week but hardly a disaster.

UPDATE: TV by the Numbers provides the viewership averages for the top three syndie game shows:

Wheel of Fortune 11.1 million - tops all genuine syndies
Jeopardy 8.8 million - second among all genuine syndies
Millionaire 3.3 million - nineteenth among all genuine syndies

Sorry for the repetition. But ESPN's Monday Night Football is almost entirely a cable show, not a real syndie at all.

GSN radio update

After censoring the first thread about the alleged end of GSN Radio, the moderator of the GSN Internet board has posted this note to end the second thread:

"Although programming can change at any time on GSN, I can’t confirm this latest rumor [of GSN Radio's encroaching rigor mortis]. For this reason I ask that the rumors are not propelled further. The team is following up for any further information and I’ll relay back any answers ASAP. Please continue to listen in on GSN Radio - it's certainly running today!"

The most accurate translation of this waffle-ese: "GSN Radio is the deadest meat this side of a barbecue pit."

At the old ballgame

Happened to see former pitcher and current Hall of Famer Don Sutton on Match Game this morning, which set off all sorts of depressing thoughts. Not that Sutton did a bad job on the episode. Not at all. He even told a funny story on himself, about his first appearance on the Rayburn follies. Seems that on the very first question, Brett Somers quietly slipped Sutton a terrible answer, even by Match Game's loose standards. After Sutton got the predictable boos for the lame response, Brett announced: "This is what we get for putting a dumb jock on the show."

Unfortunately, despite the good humor, the show only proved that time always wins (unlike pitchers). Gene Rayburn, Brett Somers, and Charles Nelson Reilly are all dead now, and Sutton himself has gone through the inevitable ills of old, or at least older age. I cropped the picture of Sutton from one of his first Match Game appearances, just to show the giggle-spawning hairstyles and fashions of a bygone era. As I get grayer, I realize just how bygone it all is.

Sorry for the elderly grumpiness. I'll try to be more cheerful. Sutton actually did quite a few Match Game eps. He may hold the dumb jock record with 28 episodes in all, including a few in the hallowed front-and-center Dawson seat...after Dawson left, of course. He didn't sit in Richard's lap, or at least nobody saw him do that.

Sutton had the quick tongue and ready wit that work well on game shows. He's also parlayed those talents into a long career as a baseball broadcaster. His stint in the broadcast booth has grown so long that his son Daron has now racked up many years as a broadcaster himself. Sutton's Cooperstown plaque has always been controversial, but it's hard to keep a 300-game winner out of the Hall. While he doesn't deserve enshrinement in the Match Game Hall of Fame, he was definitely not an embarrassment to the show.

One more odd note: they played Take Me Out to the Ballgame for Sutton's pictured appearance. He reacted wryly to the music, as his slightly crooked grin attests. Or maybe the grin was just the result of one of those notoriously liquid lunches on the Match Game set.

Monday, November 2, 2009

New GSN stuff

The alleged-for-the-alleged keeps posting interesting if heavily biased news and views from inside GSN on AJ Benza's blog. He's now leaking news of several new GSN original development projects. Rumors about a couple of these shows had already surfaced. Of course, the alleged-for-the-alleged thinks they're all crap, but he would think that. To put it very mildly, he's not an objective observer.

The most interesting idea may be a GSN version of Come Dine With Me, a cooking competition that's taken off for Channel 4 in Britain and spawned a flock of international versions. That seemingly obscure screenshot shows one of the contestants in his kitchen, whipping up what he hopes will be a winning meal. The Brit version features a lot of sardonic humor, which would probably get toned down in any GSN incarnation.

This show might actually work with GSN's old-skewing, female-skewing audience, especially because Come Dine With Me has already compiled a successful track record. Even the alleged-for-the-alleged sounds a little scared that the show might not flop.

The other projects look iffy at best: an animated game show, a hidden-camera epic with people doing goofy things for money, a Clue-ish whodunit game, and some kind of gamer with the Muppets. If Kermit got offed bloodily enough, I might watch the Muppet show.

The alleged-for-the-alleged later takes a swipe at none other than moi. I feel almost honored, but I don't want to rehash my reply here. You can check this thread on the GSN Originals board if you're at all interested.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Deal with it

I've gotten into some interesting Internet arguments about Deal or No Deal. I like the show, maybe because it seems designed for actuaries by actuaries - which is at least partially true to my personal knowledge, by the way. As soon as the cases start flopping open, my nerdy actuarial self gets sucked into mental calculations of probabilities, expected values, and possible next offers.

Trouble is, not everybody is a nerd. Most people just see a simple game where some joe or jane schmoe picks suitcases at random, accompanied by abundant eye candy and This Is Your Life-like family reunions and surprise guests. Unfortunately, they don't know or care about all the underlying probability theory and utility theory (fancy name for bird-in-hand-worth-two-in-the-bush).

Well, I do know and I do care and I ain't ashamed of it...he said with nerdy pride. Sure, the show is brainless feed-the-brutes entertainment on one level, but that's not the only level. Maybe it's just because the show is so deceptively simple that I tend to defend it so stubbornly. Anybody can see that Jeopardy is challenging. In fact, the Alex epic is overrated for its alleged intellectuality. (Is that a word? I doubt it.) Even my Time Warner cable schedule calls it the "classic thinking person's game." Oh, gag me.

Nobody would ever call Deal or No Deal a thinking person's delight. But try taking a quick look at the board and estimating the next offer. And you don't even have to put it in the form of a question.